The cream has risen to the top at the BMW Championship at Conway Farms Golf Club in Lake Forest, Illinois. Brandt Snedeker had the low round of the day that featured seven birdies in a row.
This is the third of the four Playoff tournaments; 70 players with no cut playing to get into the top-30 for next week’s tournament, The Tour Chmpionship in Atlanta, which will also determine the yearlong FedExCup and the winner of its $10 million.
Here’s how the leaders finished up Thursday:
8-under – Brandt Snedeker
7-under – Zach Johnson
5-under – Tiger Woods, Charl Schwartzel, the ageless Steve Stricker and Kevin Streelman
4-under – Adam Scott, Nick Watney, John Merrick and Ryan Moore
3-under – Hunter Mahan, Roberto Castro and Gary Woodland
Those are the guys who are playing the best. Other notables include:
1-under – Phil Mickelson, Sergio Garcia, Graeme McDowell and Luke Donald
Even par – Justin Rose, Jason Dufner, Bubba Watson, Jordan Spieth and Ernie Els.
To a man, they all say that the course played easy and they expect low scores again on Friday. There is a forecast for higher winds and cooler temperatures that could change that.
Snedker’s play was a slight surprise because he had gone home with fried brain syndrome after playing seven tournaments in a row:
Physically I felt great. Mentally it’s just good to get refreshed, kind of step away from the game, see what you’ve been doing poorly, come up with new game plan for the last two weeks and realize that I’ve still had a great year and it can be even a better year depending on these last two weeks. I’m obviously excited with the way I played today, the way I feel like I’ve been playing and kind of building on it and should get better as the week goes on.
Tiger had one of those days where he missed three short putts and didn’t birdie any of the three par 5s:
Well, I certainly wasted a lot of shots out there today. I missed three short ones and played the par‑5s stupendously. One of those days.
Steve Sticker had one of the best understatements of the day considering that he was 5-under:
Just trying to feel your way around the course. We’ve never played here before, and with the wind direction we’re not too familiar with probably. It’s just tough to kind of get a feel for the course our first time around.
Sticker has famously only played in 11 events coming in here and was thinking about not playing in the Tour Championship so that he could go hunting. He has had a lot of that sort of “me” time and “family” time this year and it seems to have worked wonders. He’s made $3.4 million and qualified for the Presidents Cup in just those 11 tournaments. But he’s had a change of heart about playing the Tour Championship:
Yeah, I’m playing. You know, it was just the right thing to do. I made up my mind right away Monday after Deutsche Bank. You know, it’s our Super Bowl marquee event, so it would be — I don’t think it would be right for me not to play.
Schwartzel shot 5-under, but it was Wednesday’s pro-am that sort of set it up:
Yeah, I just got off to a nice start, 4‑under through the first five holes, always sort of helps get your round going. And that’s when the conditions got tough. The wind picked up quite a bit, and it was moving around a little bit in the beginning. So it was difficult to get the ball close. But at that stage I already got it to 4‑under par.
Yeah, I played well yesterday. Yesterday I shot 8‑under in the pro‑am. It definitely suits my eye. I feel very comfortable on it. There’s a ways to go, and I’ve at least put myself in position.
Thursday always sort of serves as a shakedown cruise for the players; hit your groove early and you can ride it all the way through Sunday.
On the other hand, they’ll surely be thinking about codifying what they’re doing this week so that they can save some for the Big One next week.